Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My Cousin Trip, West Malaysia

So, why had I made this trip spending eight days visiting my cousins along the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia? The truth was I had really wanted to get away from Singapore, away from all the hustle and bustle of a city, away from all the emotional ties and the nitty gritty of everyday living in a city. I did not want to go on a package tour and travel with people I do not know. Moreover, I did not want to go to places to do the obligatory sightseeing.  So, really, visiting my cousins was not an after-thought but can be counted as a genuine reason for my solitary sojourn. It does not matter now what was the reason that I had suddenly decided to make this trip. What matters is that I am so very glad I made it.

In this trip, I posted many photos detailing my everyday activity with different cousins and their families. The most popular posts appeared to be those featuring the mouth-watering platters of delicious Malaysian food that caused my Facebook friends to go green with envy or pale with hunger. I got to share precious moments of togetherness with cousins that I get to see at least once or twice a year when they come to Singapore to visit my mother as well as cousins whom I have not seen for more than three years. Some cousins I know well enough but there are those whom I did not have the chance to get close to beyond brief encounters during wedding dinners.

In staying two nights with each cousin and their respective families, I got to enjoy warm Malaysian hospitality every day, particularly when it comes to eating and shopping. Shopping was not my priority - spending time with my cousins was all that I had wanted and all my cousins wanted for me was to sample all the awesome food in those places that are best kept secret from Singaporeans. While I had enjoyed eating all the food at the places they took me to in the markets and pasar malams, in the coffee shops, food court and restaurants, I place far more value on the time that I had catching up on the latest happenings, staying with them in their homes and getting to know them better beyond their Facebook personas.

In Butterworth, I was moved by the devotion and dedication of my cousin and her husband in giving so much of themselves in their roles as grandparents and yet took time to make sure that I went away with the best experience I could have had in just two days in their town. I got to know a little more about my cousin’s daughter whom I had only seen once when she was a little girl. Now she is a young lady with a nifty car and she took a precious day’s leave to fetch this Singaporean aunt of hers for breakfast and lunch and a visit to a fruit farm in Penang. Also, my cousin in Bukit Mertajam has already planned two or three itineraries for my next visit that includes a durian feast. How fortunate am I!

I visited a big city (Kuala Lumpur), a town filled with nostalgia (Ipoh), towns I have never been to (Butterworth and Bukit Mertajam) and small towns near the coast (Manjung and Sitiawan). I love the laid-back kampong feel of Manjung and Sitiawan where love and compassion thrive and the spirit of community and volunteerism is an important aspect of life. My Sitiawan cousin gave me an intimate tour of the college where she works and introduced me to her close friends and through one of them I got to enjoy a morning of exercises with a group of retirees who showed me that aging need not be lonely and purposeless. Of course we ate good food, watched a beautiful sunset by the beach and I got to see her three beautiful cats in the fur after following them on Facebook since they were adopted by her.

In Kuala Lumpur, I was picked up by a cousin at the bus station, treated to a banana-leaf lunch in Little India and travelled in comfort in his car to his sister’s house to stay. In the evening, I met up with all my KL cousins and their families and we had a meal and time together eating hawker food at a food court.

I felt so pampered by my cousin and her husband whom I had stayed with because they drove me everywhere near and far for the great food in Ipoh and Petaling Jaya. My cousin and aunt took me to the Central market and the Chinatown area to soak up the colourful atmosphere and to look for the special kaya jam but the seller did not open his stall that day, a pity it was.

 I got to spend a little time with my niece and nephew and hopefully I have left a deeper impression on them as their aunt whom they see perhaps once a year or once in two years. Another cousin and her husband in Malacca whom I did not visit this time because we see each other pretty often does the same each time I visit her. That is, I get to eat all the special food in her town as well.

In conclusion, this Cousin Trip was a meaningful trip. It was an enjoyable getaway trip. I do not think that I need to go anywhere exotic or anywhere expensive. What the trip taught me was that if you have a will to do something you will have a way to achieve it. It also taught me that I have to “seize the day”. There are too many incidences of people my age suddenly stricken with illness or worse still, do not live to see another day.

While I have my senses and my physical ability, I should not waste them by just waiting for time to pass by daily. Everyday must be lived with purpose and energy. The only way to do that is to take care of my health and to set goals that I can work towards. Goals keep us moving along towards a meaningful life. Planning and action ensure that we fulfil our dreams. I am not talking about starting a company, just starting to live life more intensely and not letting life outlive me.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Road trip to the East Coast of Malaysia

A summary of the road trip: We hired car and drove for six hours from Johore Bahru in the southern tip of Peninsula Malaysia along the AH18 coastal road to Kuantan where we spent a night at the lovely Swiss Garden Hotel for a night. The next day we set off for Kuala Trengganu 230 km northwards driving at a leisurely place and taking about five hours in all. We stayed two nights at a beachfront hotel before making the return trip to Kuantan stopping by at different beaches along the way. In Kuantan we checked into a hotel in the city as it was late by the time we arrived and the next morning left early to make the six-hour trip back to Johor Bahru.

On the taxi back home in Singapore, the taxi driver asked us where we had been. I told him we went to the East Coast to Kuantan. He asked what there was to see there and why would we go there. He said we were very brave, two women going to Kuantan to just laze around the beaches. I decided that we should withhold the truth about us having hired a car and driving on our own along almost the entire east coast of Peninsula Malaysia. He would not have understood and I was too tired to talk about my trip with someone I do not know.
Here are the things I did not tell him about the East Coast of Malaysia. 

The beautiful beaches at the hotels where we stayed and along the coast where we had stopped for breaks from the long car journeys. 

Beach in front of the Swiss Garden Hotel in Kuantan.

The wide and long stretch of beach in front of the Hotel Primula in Kuala Trengganu.

 The golden sand beach at Rantau Abang.

The surprising good roads and lovely towns and kampongs that are charming and yet not backward at all as most people would imagine. In fact near the bigger towns, there were schools and lovely local mosques and plentiful of petrol kiosks. Generally the impression was that the east coast of Malaysia is neat and safe and people were happy with what they do there. In Trengganu, oil sustains the economy. In Johor, it is oil palm plantations and unfortunately the mining of red earth that left an ugly blemish on this land that otherwise would have been forested. 

In Mersing where we stopped over for lunch on the way to Kuantan, the town was clean and pleasant. We had reasonably priced fresh sea-food 

In the town of Kuala trengganu, we had lots to do actually because this year is Visit Trengganu Year 2017. The town has instituted a trolley bus for tourists to drop by at the places of interests there - the main market, the Chinatown, various mosques, the national museum and most of all the Crystal Mosque that is said to be one of the most beautiful mosques in the world especially at night when it is all lighted up. 

The Crystal Mosque in the day. Glass covered and promising a spectacular appearance at night when it is lighted up.


 Kuantan  - a lovely town.

The delicious food at the hotel, at the coffee-shops...


 Conclusion: I would do a trip like this again, anytime.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Kashmir-Ladakh 2017

This was a 14-day trip driving across the mountain ranges of Kashmir and ladakh in June this year.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Shandong-Henan Tour in April 2015

Click on the photo to see my blog on my Shandong-Henan tour.

Longmen Grottoes